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NOAA Ocean Noise Reference Station Network
Passive acoustic monitoring of the ocean ambient sound field is a critical aspect of NOAA?s mandate for ocean and coastal stewardship. This includes detecting and characterizing: (1) sounds produced and used by living marine resources (e.g., endangered marine mammals); (2) natural sources of noise from physical oceanographic processes; and (3) anthropogenic noise sources that contribute to the overall ocean noise environment. Noise generated by anthropogenic activities (especially commercial shipping and seismic oil & gas exploration) is increasingly being recognized as a potential threat to marine mammals which are protected in the U.S. by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Current scientific data suggest that increased ambient noise levels impact marine mammals by hindering communication (Hatch et al. 2012), altering communication behavior (Parks et al. 2013), altering locomotive behavior (Pirotta et al. 2013), and inducing stress (Rolland et al. 2012). Additional concerns associated with the degraded acoustic quality of diverse habitats broaden these concerns to include possible repercussions for fish and invertebrate species, many of which NOAA manages as commercially-harvested, protects as resources within sanctuaries, or studies as key elements to sustaining healthy ecosystems. For these reasons it is important for science-based regulatory agencies including NOAA to monitor long-term trends and changes in the ambient sound field. The objective of the proposed project is to establish a network of initially ten ocean noise reference stations in U.S. waters to monitor long-term changes and trends in the underwater ambient sound field (McDonald et al. 2006). Our plan is to deploy identical autonomous acoustic recording systems developed in-house at PMEL at each reference station to ensure proper calibration and consistency of the collected data sets.